Technically, defender Eriq Zavaleta was acquired by Toronto FC in a trade with the Seattle Sounders today. However, he was always more of a Chivas USA product, having been on loan for the season. As a result, Waking the Red talked to The Goat Parade, SB Nation's Chivas USA blog, about the 22-year-old. Here are some questions we asked managing editor Alicia Rodriguez and the answers she provided us. For the most part, this should give you a positive look at the club's newest player.
1. What were some of the positives and negatives of Zavaleta's game when he played for Chivas USA?
On the positive side, I would say that Zavaleta was a pretty quick learner and did reasonably well for essentially being thrown into the deep end pretty early in the season. He beat out another young defender, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, for the third center back spot almost immediately after he arrived from Seattle, and never relinquished it. And when he played alongside veteran Carlos Bocanegra, it was immediately evident that with an experienced partner, Zavaleta could react pretty well and had the physicality and speed to deal with tricky attackers.
Of course, it is still a bit tough to wax rhapsodic about a reserve defender who was on a very bad defensive team. I think the defense overall struggled, and Zavaleta certainly had his moments too. It is obvious that he's still learning the position, after some time moving back and forth between CB and striker, and he's got plenty to learn yet. And unsurprisingly, when paired with an inexperienced defender, he had a really tough time with decision making last season. Still, despite all of that, I think there's plenty of upside if he continues to be taught how to be an MLS defender.
2. Why do you think he didn't fit in Seattle, was it his abilities or just organizational depth?
To me, Zavaleta wasn't a player who could help the Sounders win now, and they can't afford to hold onto players who may come good in a couple seasons. In contrast, the situation with Chivas, who were rebuilding for what seemed like the millionth time (sound familiar?), meant he would get an opportunity to play and to basically learn how to play at this level. And CUSA got a decent youngster, so in the context of 2014, it was win-win for both teams.
3. Ideally, on a top MLS team, where would Zavaleta be on a defensive depth chart?Unless he's made big leaps in the offseason (theoretically possible, though not particularly likely absent game time), on one of the top teams he'd probably be the fourth or fifth option. As it stands, I think on most teams he'd be the third- to fifth-string CB, but if his development continues, I could see him making a case to break through to the starting XI sooner rather than later.
4. How much playing time do you see Zavaleta getting on the current Toronto FC squad?It's hard for me to say, but from what I can see, there are only four CBs under contract on the roster right now. There's a solid chance that between injuries and suspensions he can break through at least from time to time, but from the outside, it's hard for me to peg a number of appearances I think he could make this season.
5. At best, what could Zavaleta turn into down the road, considering his current abilities?It's tricky with prospects, obviously, because so many who look promising never really pan out. But Zavaleta has the pedigree, the physical tools, the smarts and now some experience to push on. I think he can definitely become a regular MLS starter, based on what I saw last year, and beyond that, maybe more. But we'll have to see how he develops this season to see if he's really on track to stick in MLS for the next decade.